It’s Sunday afternoon and the Bistro’s packed with retarded people.
No, I’m not dissing Yuppies again. The customers are all part of a tour group. With the exception of a few staff members, the entire crowd consists of “differently abled” or “special” people. Since Sunday’s are usually slow Fluvio booked the party and gave them a moderately priced package. Eating at the Bistro is a real change for these people. I know. Years ago I ran a group home for developmentally disabled adults. Going to IHOP was the norm.
“I want cheesecake!” one of the customers shouts. He hasn’t even gotten his salad yet.
“Don’t you be worried. You’ll get your cheesecake,” Fluvio says smiling.
“I want it now!” the man yells.
“Hey, I cook for you and you don’t want it?” Fluvio teases jokingly.
“Sorry,” the man replies.
I look at Fluvio. He’s managing this beautifully. Occasionally he gets flustered with customers but today he’s the soul of patience.
“You’re handling this really well,” I tell him.
“Someone in my family is like these people,” he replies.
Ah I think to myself. Just when you think you know someone they surprise you.
“Well I used to work with these people so I’m impressed.”
“Thanks,” Fluvio says.
I survey the crowd. Like people in general, retarded people have a variety of personalities. Some are rambunctious. Others are quiet. I note most of the people say “please” and “thank you.” A couple sits together holding hands. She’s wearing a simple dress. The man’s wearing a suit twenty years out of style. They seem to enjoy each others company.
“Excuse me sir,” another woman calls out.
“Yes madam?” I reply.
“I don’t have any money,” she says opening her empty purse for emphasis.
“I think it’s already taken care of madam.” The staff’s probably holding the money.
“Ok,” she says eyes downcast.
“Enjoy you dinner Madam.”
The entrée’s come out and the customers tuck into it with gusto. The staff retires to the coffee machine for a break
“So you used to work with these people?” Beth asks me.
“Jeez,” I say shaking my head, “that was like fourteen years ago.” Time flies.
“Did you enjoy it?”
“It was hands down the hardest job I ever had.”
“How long did you work there?”
“That’s not a long time.”
“It was all I could take.”
“Sounds rough,” Beth says.
I smile. “Beth, let me tell you a story……..
I’m twenty-three, unemployed, and living at home. That’s, to put it mildly, putting a crimp in my social life. One day I see an ad in the help wanted section.
Residential Group Home Manager for
Developmentally Disabled Adults
$22,000 a year Studio Apartment included.
The pay sucks but at least I’d be out of my parent’s house. I have a BA in Psych. I apply for the job and get it.
The job turns out to be incredibly hard. Most of the residents are severely autistic. I’m basically the primary caregiver because the rest of the staff at the home are a bunch of lazy shiftless bastards. They eat, sleep, watch TV, and collect a paycheck. I fire all of them.
Within three months I find a new staff. After some fits and starts the home starts to run like a well oiled machine. The residents seem happier. In my spare time I turn my studio apartment into a swinging bachelor pad. Attached to the group home it has a private entrance but can be accessed through a door in the residents’ living room. It’s small but it’s mine. I even buy a new bed.
I’m eager to break it in – if you know what I mean.
Sure enough nature takes its course and late one night I bring a young woman back to my “place.” As I pull in the driveway I see a big moon face peer out the window. It’s Tony. He’s twenty five years old, two hundred and thirty pounds, and autistic. He’s my toughest client.
I wave to Tony. His face disappears behind the curtain. He never sleeps. He prowls around the house all night talking to himself. The doctor’s are trying to titer his medication to a therapeutic level. So far no luck.
The girl and I enter through the private entrance. I told her the deal with my apartment. She didn’t seem to care.
Once inside she turns to me.
“I have to use the bathroom. Why don’t you put on some music?” she asks slyly.
I light some candles and put my cool new Enigma CD into the stereo. The girl returns from the bathroom.
“Nice music,’ she says.
“Yeah aren’t they great?” (Hey, I’m only 23)
“Come here,” she purrs.
Soon we’re making out. Her shirt comes off. I pull her towards my bed. I reach around to undo her bra.
I fumble with the clasp. Ah Waiter – you smooth operator you.
“Let me help you,” the girl says breathily. She reached back and undoes the clasp easily. Her bra starts to slip off. I’m salivating.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
Someone’s banging on the door from inside the group home. A strange disembodied voice cries out,
“HELP! HELP! DON”T YOU HURT HER! DON’T HURT HER! MISSES HEALY? MISSES HEALY? I’M YOU’RE FRIEND. YES. BOOOOWEEEEEOPPPP!”
Oh God, it’s Tony. He’s having an episode.
“Who the hell is that?” the girl says clutching me in terror.
“One of the residents. Don’t worry about it,” I say eager to see her goodies.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
“Don’t you think you should see what’s up?” the girl says putting her bra back on.
Aggravated I go to the door and open it.
Tony stands naked in the door. He has an erection. He’s masturbating furiously.
“Jesus!” the girl shrieks.
The irony that I also have an erection is not lost on me.
“DON’T YOU HURT HER!” Tony yells at me.
I gently guide Tony back into the house. The overnight staff and I put him to bed. We remind Tony that if he wants to masturbate he needs to do it in PRIVATE.
“Ok,” he says.
“Good night Tony.”
I return to my apartment. The girl’s fully dressed with her purse in her hand.
“I want to go home.’
“Now.” Her tone brooks no disagreement.
I take the girl home. It’s the last time I see her……
“Oh my God. That’s too funny,” Beth laughs, “What happened to Tony?”
“Oh the story gets better,” I reply, “The next morning he hit me in the head with a frying pan. When I tried to take it away from him he bit me on the arm. I had to go to the hospital.”
“Wow,” Beth says shaking her head.
“Tony was heading for a crisis. He’s just picked the night I was trying to get laid to flip out.”
“No wonder you didn’t last long,” Beth chuckles.
“But it was a good experience,” I say.
I look out upon our crowd of retarded customers and smile, “Because if I got cockblocked, hit with a fry pan, and bit in a twenty four period I think I can handle anything some Yuppie customer throws at me.”
“True,” Beth concurs.
“Besides,” I say, “these guys are a really nice group of people.”
“The people out there are better behaved than half our regular customers,” Beth says.
I burst out laughing.
“At least they say please and thank you!”
The dinner ends and the special people leave happy. They leave us a nice tip. Go figure. …..
So I dissed the Yuppies a little bit.
And no – I never figured out who “Misses Healy” was.